John Bastida, longtime Ada County clerk, commissioner, dead at 92

Bastida, who died Saturday at his Boise home, helped govern Ada County as it transformed from an agricultural center to one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country.

Born in Ada County to immigrant parents in 1920, Bastida's first language was Basque. He was raised on his family's ranch on what is now the Fox Ridge Estates development.

"He was a fine man," said former Idaho Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa, who worked with Bastida on election administration issues.

Cenarrusa remembers Bastida as an excellent pilot, businessman and player of the Basque card game, mus, a favorite at Boise's Basque Center. "He was amongst the top in the mus tournaments," Cenarrusa said.

A Republican, Bastida served 12 years as county clerk and eight as county commissioner, ending his time in elected office in 1993. His catchy phrase on campaign bumper stickers was "You Needa Bastida!" and he often made decisions with bumper-sticker swiftness.

"Over-analysis leads to paralysis," was among Bastida's favorite phrases, recalled Ada County Prosecuting Attorney Greg Bower, who served with Bastida beginning in 1975. "He was a plain-spoken man."

Bower said Bastida often referred to lessons learned as an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II, including service in New Guinea. "A lot of John's take on government was shaped by his war experience. He'd frequently use aphorisms like, 'We need fewer people on the job and more people moving.'"

After returning the war in 1946, Bastida owned a Boise construction and excavation company.

Former Ada County Commissioner and Coroner Mike Johnson said Bastida gave him some good advice when he was elected to the commission in 1984. "Just remember one thing," Johnson recalls Bastida saying. "You're going to have people want to take you to lunch, take you to dinner and do this and that for you. You'll have all kinds of controversy over your decisions. But the day you leave office, they will forget your phone number and nobody's going to build a bronze statue outside the courthouse saying how great you are."

As he left office, Bastida pressed for a public conversation on consolidating local services. "I just don't think county government should keep growing by leaps and bounds," he said at the time.

Bastida was elected to the county commission in 1968, when the three commissioners shared an office in the Old Ada County Courthouse, each with a phone and a desk. "He was an honest man and he always tried to do what he thought was right," Johnson said.

His legacy includes the new courthouse; establishment of the Ada County Highway District; buying the county's first computers and the current landfill site; establishing a building department; consolidating city and county jails, records and dispatch services; and forming the Ada County Council of Governments, the predecessor to COMPASS, the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho.

Both Johnson and Bower saw Bastida in the last year and said he looked good. At about 6-2, with a large head and a booming voice, Bastida was an imposing presence. "John looked great," Bower said. "He never seemed to age."

Services are at pending at Cloverdale Funeral Home. A vigil is tentatively set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Boise. The funeral service is tentatively set for 10 a.m. Thursday, also at Sacred Heart.

To those of us who knew John personally.....

we know is true legacy extends far beyond his government service. He was a great American citizen, public servant and real gentleman. We mourn the loss of a great family friend.

In a time of loud men with no voices...

He was a man who spoke to get a job done.

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